A dementia charity has urged the government to publish its delayed ‘urgent review’ into the use of antipsychotic drugs in dementia patients.
The Department of Health announced the review in June 2008 after an inquiry by MPs revealed that over-prescribing of antipsychotics was a significant problem in many care homes, with experts estimating that 70% of prescriptions are inappropriate. Concerns over the serious side-effects of these drugs on dementia patients are long-held by practitioners and campaign groups.
The review was expected to be part of the national dementia strategy published in February but has not yet been published.
“More than one year on we are still waiting for this review into this important issue on which both carers and professionals alike need clear guidance,” said Ian Weatherhead, lead Admiral nurse for the charity’s Admiral Nursing Direct helpline.
The charity’s criticisms follow calls in June from the Alzheimer’s Society for the review to be published.
Weatherhead added: “In very specific circumstances, anti-psychotic drugs have an important role to play when prescribed and used appropriately but they must always be considered as a last resort. This means a detailed assessment must be carried out so that other potential causes of behaviour change – often called ‘challenging behaviour’ – have been discounted, such as changes in environment, infection, constipation, anxiety and depression.”
A DH spokesperson said the “outcomes of this review will be completed shortly” and that the department had received “a lot of feedback from a range of organisations”, which it was now considering.
She added: “Guidance to health and care professionals is very clear, antipsychotic drugs should only be used appropriately as part of best clinical care practice.”
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